Audi A8

Luxury car buyers demand the best. They seek out the sharpest looks, most opulent cabin and warp factor 10 acceleration. Audi's flagship A8 ticks all the boxes - and now the German company has added a new entry-level model to the range to ensure its masterpiece is available to as many people as possible.

If buying a luxury model, you should really choose a diesel engine. Audi's new petrol-powered A8 is smooth and refined, but its oil-burning brother is more economical and faster in everyday conditions. However, all A8s are superb luxury cars and few buyers will be disappointed with the 3.2 FSI. It offers good value for money, too.

Luxury car buyers demand the best. They seek out the sharpest looks, most opulent cabin and warp factor 10 acceleration. Audi's flagship A8 ticks all the boxes - and now the German company has added a new entry-level model to the range to ensure its masterpiece is available to as many people as possible.

A 3.2-litre powerplant replaces the 3.0 V6 offered in the A8 since its launch in 2003. This unit produces 256bhp - an increase of 39bhp - while torque is boosted from 300Nm to 330Nm.

The benefit of the extra power is that the 0-62mph time drops from 7.9 to 7.7 seconds, all thanks to Audi's FSI - Fuel Stratified Injection - technology. With direct injection, the 3.2 breaks new ground in the class, and is smooth and competent out on the road.

Feeding power to the front wheels via the CVT gearbox used in the existing car, the V6 is whisper quiet and never feels stretched, even at high revs. However, peak power does not arrive until 6,500rpm, so swift progress requires a heavy right foot. Many drivers will be more comfortable with the 3.0-litre TDI diesel variant, which delivers its acceleration lower down the range.

To make the most of the 3.2's pace, you can slot the gearlever into manual mode to select artificial ratios. If refinement is paramount, the petrol model will hold greater appeal. What's more, it returns 28.8mpg on the combined cycle - similar to the slower 3.0 V6 petrol, and a big improvement over the 4.2-litre V8's 23mpg economy.

The SE inherits the A8's superb air-suspension and comes equipped with DVD-based satellite-navigation, keyless entry and a voice-controlled sound system as standard. The good news is that, with a price tag of £47,930, it seems to represent solid value next to rivals - and makes Mercedes' all-new S-Class look expensive in comparison.

So has Audi created an entry-level luxury car requiring no compromises? The higher-powered petrol and diesel models offer more memorable performance, but the new 3.2 FSI is an all-rounder that will satisfy all but the most demanding buyers in this market.

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